Tired of Thinking About Eating

I’m going on about eating again.  I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently, because my weight is back up and although I am trying to be alright about this (I’ve started dance classes, which is a nice reminder that my body does fun things) it is just past the point where anything I own is comfortable to wear.  So I’m reminded daily.

Anyway, so I posted this plea for help to some friends earlier – forgive the cut and paste dump, but I am taking you on an emotional journey here.  Or, a journey, anyway. Emotion optional.

What I find about diets is this. Either I vow to make general changes, like only small amounts of refined grains or added sugars, lots of whole vegetables and meat and legumes, which sounds great. But the problem with that approach is it is too vague and unquantifiable and I can’t record anything and there aren’t enough rules and therefore it doesn’t matter if I just eat a family packet of crisps tonight because How Do I Know That I’m Doing It Right?

The alternative is anything that does have rules. I’ve calorie counted, done whole30, done 5:2. I drop weight very fast, partly because I get into the whole rule structure and start competing with myself about how much better I can do.  If a calorie plan says I should eat 1500 calories, well then I’ll eat 900!  And then in a totally shocking plot twist I stop dieting and go back to crazy bingeing eating.

Diet is one of those questions that elicits All The Opinions, so that’s what I got.  Some of them responded by recommending versions of those all-encompassing lifestyle diets where you get an entire meal plan and exercise regime laid out for you.  Others suggested I take a tried-and-true like Weight Watchers and adapt it for my own needs.  Others still said, look at the underlying causes of why you might overeat.  Think about your food and be mindful about the pleasure and make sure it hits the right spot.

food mice

None of them appealed, because no matter what the approach was, they all had one thing in common: they required me to spend more time thinking about food.

Friends, I am tired of thinking about food.  Belle’s website resonates with so many of us because she encapsulates this so well about alcohol.  I’ve had a few relapse thoughts recently, just idle ‘I wonder if I could…’ thoughts, not helped by the holiday season and the swathes of people who keep asking me if I’m sure I don’t drink at ALL, and really, STILL sober huh?  But what I remember every time is how boring and tedious and  time consuming it was, thinking about drinking.  And if I went back to any drinking at all, that would happen.  Maybe I’d stick to one glass on a Saturday night.  It’s unlikely, but one hears stories suggesting that it’s possible.  But I’d only do so by exerting fierce self control all the time.  I’d think about that one glass all week.  I’d wonder, on a Thursday, whether it would be alright to have that glass on Friday instead this week because it’s been a hard week.  And maybe I’d go back to drinking a bottle of wine a day and maybe I wouldn’t, but I know without the tiniest hint of a rumour that there might be a doubt in there somewhere that I would be back to thinking about drinking.

Not thinking about drinking has freed me up to think about so many other things.  In the past twelve months I’ve taught myself to sew, and to knit, and I’m teaching myself carpentry at the moment, and that’s just the non-business side of my life.  It is ridiculous, with so many amazing things to occupy our brains and our hearts, that we shoved them aside to think about whether we’ve had two drinks tonight and is a third reasonable, on a Monday?

food sleepy

So, no.  It’s not worth the brain space, not something that mundane.  And that’s how I feel about food at the moment.  I want to eat when I’m hungry.  I want to enjoy food for its own sake.  I do not want to spend any more time thinking about it than I do.  I don’t want to count points or calories or grams, I don’t want to meal prep or read ingredient lists to see if something contains a verboten substance.  And I definitely do not want to sit with a single cookie and savour it, because seriously, I am an adult woman with better things to spend my time doing than romancing a baked good.

food cupcake.jpeg

And that’s why, my friends, having no rules at all and just “embracing healthy eating” feels so hard!  Because it means that I have to make a decision about everything I eat, every single time.  Is this dried fruit what I really want; is it going to satisfy my craving; is there a better substitution I can make?  Fucking exhausting.  Mindful eating, even worse.  Rules?  Just as bad, or worse, or better, who even knows?

I feel like I should end this post with a fanfare – tarantara! – and an announcement of the solution.  I don’t have a solution, though.  I’m just tired of thinking about eating.

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And leaves you wanting more

It’s a chilly evening,  but the lounge room is warm and clean.  The children are in bed, Lovely Husband is out at a class and I have the night to myself.  In front of me is a huge bowl of lentil soup, my favourite food in the world.

The first bite is heavenly.  Hot, spicy, creamy and thick, laced with lime and yoghurt for tang. I am perfectly satisfied, and in the very next second I feel a spike of anxiety. Eventually this bowl of soup, enormous though it is, will be gone and the pleasure will be over.  Even reminding myself that there is more soup in the pot doesn’t help, because there is no way I’ll be able to eat more.  Once this bowl of soup is done, it is done, and I am mourning its loss even as I contemplate a second spoonful.

alwayswantmore

You are, at this point, either nodding in recognition or thinking that I am entirely insane, and both are completely legitimate responses!  I laugh when I catch myself doing it now.  I used, of course, to do it with alcohol; my anxiety that there wouldn’t be enough pleasure in a bottle would almost outweigh the desire to drink it at all, which is both ludicrous and also explains part of why it is so much more peaceful not to drink it at all. I’d be watching a film, which would be coming up to the most emotional moment, but if my glass was almost empty I’d pause the narrative – and lose the tense build up – to make sure it was full again.  I couldn’t possibly lose myself in the moment if I didn’t also have that glass by my hand.

I haven’t lost any of that anxiety.  I still feel as if somehow, somewhere, I’ll hit upon a magical combination of fulfilling leisure and sensory pleasure that somehow satiates me completely and propels me into a new world.   And when I do find something that gets close – right now it’s Pretty Little Liars and knitting – I do it again and again, every evening.

Sleeves being knitted and worn at the same time

I cannot do this, in case you’re wondering

Sometimes I think that learning how to just be is the hardest thing of all.

This crazy little thing called food

I’ve been talking a bit about how I’m slipping into eating habits that mirror my old drinking habits.  It’s not that I worry about the calories particularly, although obviously I am female and inhabit a patriarchal world, so I’d quite like to lose ten pounds yes, thank you.  I worry about the fact that I wake up in the morning and wonder what treat I’ll have that evening.  I worry about the way I drive home with both kids in the car and feel a stab of anxiety if I don’t have anything indulgent in the house for after bedtime; I can’t go out once they’re asleep, so I’ll have to make a stop on the way home, what excuse am I going to make, I can’t just drag two children into a supermarket to pick up some salt and vinegar crisps…oh, that’s OK, we’re low on milk, now I have to go to the store and hey, while I’m here, might as well grab those pistachios…

comfort-food-by-holly-garrison-001

It’d be funny if it wasn’t sad, or sad if it wasn’t funny.  It is exactly how I used to drink.  The same thinking about it in the morning, the same anxiety when it approached bedtime and I was stuck for the night.  In Australia, alcohol can only be sold in dedicated ‘bottle shops’, so I could never manufacture an excuse to just pop out for bread and pick up a bottle.  It had to be an alcohol-related excuse.  If we were low on wine, and it wasn’t a weekend with the weekend’s built-in excuse to indulge, I would decide to cook a casserole that took red wine, or steam mussels in beer, or if we’d already eaten it seemed logical to do some cooking ahead.

Food is easier.  There isn’t the stigma, if I do drag both children into the store for ice cream.  And I’m not a binger or a purger, and I’m not particularly overweight, and I eat decently, after all.  I just like to snack in the evening, every evening, and that sort of eating is directly tied to my emotional well being in ways that aren’t working for me.

So I decided to blow the whole thing up.

blowshitupcat

I’m undertaking a Whole30 which is basically Paleo for people who think Paleo is too easy.  No grains, including pseudo grains like quinoa.  No dairy.  No sugar.  No alcohol, which includes alcohol for cooking.  No legumes; chickpeas are out, as is the most amazing lentil soup ever invented in the world (have I talked about this soup before?  I have been remiss if not, because this soup, you guys.  THIS SOUP.  If you live anywhere that is colder than 100F right now, drop what you’re doing and plan to have this soup for dinner), as is everything that contains soy, which is basically everything that tastes good in the world.  You eat animal proteins and plant matter.  I’m pretty sure that you cannot do this diet if you are a vegetarian because you would actually literally starve.

fruitrainbow

Why, you are asking, am I doing this insane thing?  Well, I am glad you asked, my sober and extremely attractive friend.  It is because I suck at moderation.  “Why not just cut out snacking”, queried a well meaning confidante, and I flashed back to all those years of ‘if I don’t drink on a Monday or a Wednesday…’.  Because that doesn’t work for me, is why.

The ’30’ in Whole30 is the number of days.  It’s a temporary thing.  For me, it’s a rehab.  Not a crash diet, not a so-called detox, not  anything that I expect to continue.  A rehab.  Like an alcohol rehab, where one gets some distance from the problematic substance, starts to see clearly what it was doing, how much denial one was in, and how much better one feels afterwards.  A rehab doesn’t mean that you’re cured, and neither will this.  But it’ll be interesting.

Also, I totally took myself out to McDonalds for dinner on the night before I started and I’m not even sorry.